Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Islamic Fundamentalists or Islamic Unitarians?

I bristle when people say "Islamic Fundamentalists" because the next step in their logic is usually to connect Bin Laden or whomever to Jerry Falwell and the moral majority because, well after all, they're all Fundamentalists aren't they?

Stephen Shwartz wrote Murderous Monotheists last year to explain what Zarqawi believes and he noted academics had often translated Zarqawi's flavor of Islam as "Unitarian",
There is a grotesque footnote to this nightmare. As the historian J.B. Kelly has pointed out, Western academic and political apologists for the Saudi state and Wahhabism have often translated the Arabic term "muwahid'dun"--or "believers in tawhid," the Wahhabis' preferred term for themselves--as "Unitarians." If certain powerful figures in the Middle East Studies departments at universities in the United States and elsewhere had their way, current headlines would read "Unitarians Behead Another American."
So next time someone labels bin Laden a fundamentalist and lumps him with President Bush as just another theocrat (I've really heard that), I'm going to point out no, Bin Laden is a Unitarian but you know he's really not quite like the kind I worship with Saturday evenings.

PS Harry over at Harry's Place calls the Islamic radicals Bin Ladinists and I think that's the label I'll use from now on.

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